How we perceive fat in food is still poorly understood, but researchers have suggested that a gene called CD36, which is connected to the taste buds, could mean that fat is experienced just like other tastes – salty, sweet, bitter, sour and umami. NTC has used this theory in the development of its new fat replacer, derived from selected vegetable oil fractions that target these taste receptors on the tongue.
The company claims it can replace up to 25% of the fat in a range of applications, including bouillons, gravies, seasonings, meat products, snacks, ready meals and French fries.
NTC’s vice president of sales and marketing, Markus Beba, told FoodNavigator that the ingredient responds to consumer demand for healthier products that retain the taste and aroma of full fat varieties.
“We see something is low fat and automatically, based on our previous experience, we think straight away that it can’t taste good,” Beba said, adding that many food manufacturers are reducing fat without telling consumers on-pack, making so-called 'stealth' reductions.
But there are other ways to alert consumers to changes in formulation without negative connotations.
“Rather than highlighting ‘low in fat’, they highlight ‘low in calories’. Consumers don’t combine low calories with bad taste, but they do with low fat,” he said.
“…The most important thing is the final consumer. You buy that product again if it tastes good. My advice is that it doesn’t matter if you say it is reduced fat or reduced calories as long as it is preferred.”
The new fat enhancer is vegetarian and allergen-free. It would be used at a proportion of 0.1% to 0.2% in a ready-to-consume product, and can be labelled as ‘natural flavour’ on ingredient lists both in Europe and in the US.